Lots of brands work.
I think one of the reasons Montrail is so popular is that, on the average, more people can get a decent fit from the lasts Montrail uses. People also have a lot of brand loyalty to footwear that works, and once people find something that works for them they seldom are willing to experiment further.
I've had good experiences with Garmont, Lowa, New Balance, Hi-Tec, and Montrail. My major gripe has been that the plastic heel reinforcement on New Balance trail shoes (this happened to me with a pair of 806ATs) broke, leaving a two jagged pieces of plastic to gouge my heel. Several other people of my acquaintance have had similar failures. But the NBs fit very well and work so well up to that point that they are still well worth considering. With Lowas I seem to be very slightly more prone to rolling my ankles.
I've had less positive experience with Salomon, Merrell, and Nike. With Salomon I think it has more to do with the last just not working with my feet. Similarly with Nike. I think Merrell fits me best of all, but the shoes have consistently failed within very short times (around a hundred or hundred-fifty miles of walking).
Swapping out the existing insoles for Superfeet or something similar makes a big difference for me, especially with respect to ankle-rolling and knee problems. Make sure you try the shoes on with Superfeet.
I used to just hike with Smartwool Light Hikers, but now I use a bigger variety -- some of the low-top Smartwool Socks, the Injiji Tetratsok, and a neoprene sock (either Sealskinz or the Campmor Super Sock) for really wet or snowy conditions. I'm also really agressive about retiring socks when they develop holes or are starting to get thin. One big problem with low-top socks (for me) is that they are harder to hang on your pack to dry them out -- well, you can still hang them, but the odds of them being there at the end of a long day aren't quite as high.
Keeping your feet warm is as much a matter as there being plentiful room to ensure adquate circulation as any insulating layers. Generally I like walking shoes with lots of ventilation. The downside of this is that one dusty trails your feet will be tattooed with dirt.
You need a willingness to experiment with footwear, I think. Your feet are going to change with time, and what worked last year is a good starting point, but might not work this year. Companies change their lasts from year to year, and seem to be doing so more frequently now than when they used to. Secondly, you shouldn't get particularly attached to one pair of shoes -- for me, it is a rare pair that lasted more than 350 miles.
Using heavier hiking boots, I rarely got more than 300 or so miles without a resole anyway, and my boots never, ever, fit as well after a resole than before.
As for wet feet and cold feet... If it is hopelessly, continuously cold and wet neoprene socks are the way to go. That doesn't just apply to trail runners either -- they are awesome for ski trips and mountaineering too. For normal creek crossings and wet brushy trails I just let my feet dry out. It rarely takes more than twenty minutes of walking before my feet are reasonably dry again.